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Updated: 21 hours 36 min ago

Lumina Foundation Gives Odds For Edtech Innovation Under Trump

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 08:00

Bipartisanship hasn’t exactly been the watchword in Washington over the past month as the new Trump administration grapples with stalled nominations, court battles over its travel ban, and investigations of campaign contacts with Russia.

But deeply divided politicians may still find some common ground over education policy—in ways that could be good for educational technology companies and other inventive startups, says the CEO of a richly-endowed non-profit that’s trying to catalyze change.

Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, sees bipartisan interest in education initiatives that help U.S. students and adults prepare for success in the 21st century... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: CRISPR Drama, Marathon and PhRMA, the Price of Vision & More

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:45

News may be coming out of Washington, DC, at a breakneck pace, but concrete plans regarding the future of the nation’s healthcare system, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical industry have been much slower to materialize. The consternation about President Donald Trump’s coming pick for FDA commissioner was palpable this week at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference in New York. Speakers universally panned the idea of dramatically shaking up the FDA or lowering the drug approval bar; one biotech investor said significant deregulation, like not testing drugs for efficacy, could turn the industry into the “wild west.”

Meanwhile, plans to replace... Read more »

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Dermata Secures $10M in Combined Financing for Skin Treatments

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 02:12

[Corrected 2/17/17, 9:41 am to differentiate Silicon Valley Bank’s loan from private investment.] Dermata Therapeutics, a San Diego development-stage biotech advancing new treatments for rosacea, eczema, and related dermatological diseases, said it has secured $5 million in additional funding from private investors and entered into a $5 million credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank.

The company, founded in 2014 by former Santarus CEO Gerald Proehl and San Diego biotech investor David Hale, plans to use the funding for general corporate purposes and to advance Dermata’s line of dermatological drugs. Dermata said it has drugs under development for treating... Read more »

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Join Us: Xconomy Forum on Innovations with Widespread Human Impact

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 02:17

Over the past 30 years or so, design theorists have promoted the idea of putting humans at the center of the process that innovators use to design everyday things. At the UC San Diego Design Lab, director Don Norman talks about the importance of studying and understanding how people are actually using something—whether it is a computerized interface or a door handle.

In recent years, this concept of human-centric design has percolated into all kinds of other fields—from business management to problem-solving in general. Here at Xconomy, we are gathering prominent scientists, executives, investors, and others in San Diego... Read more »

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With “Go,” Amazon Identifies Another Job It Can Do Better

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 10:46

Early last year, I “fired” talk radio along with NPR’s morning and evening editions. That same day, I “hired” Amazon Audible as my commute companion.

It wasn’t a difficult decision. Audible is far better than its predecessors at doing the job I need done as I travel to and from my office – provide on-demand access to an array of rich, custom content.

I got to thinking about that firing-hiring recently when reading an article about Amazon’s new “Go” concept: a quick-stop grocery and convenience-meal venture that will allow consumers to grab what they need off the shelves (Amazon’s Just Walk... Read more »

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Fintech VC Backing Dipped 13 Percent in 2016, Mirroring Rest of Tech

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 10:00

The final numbers on 2016 fintech funding deals are in from New York-based research firm and investment database CB Insights, and venture capitalists seem to be cooling on the industry.

According to a report released today, financial technology companies around the world attracted $12.7 billion in venture capital across 836 investments last year. That is down 13 percent from a peak in 2015, when global fintech investment soared to $14.6 billion.

The numbers are in rough agreement with the slowdown or “normalization” in overall venture funding activity in 2016, according to several reports.

Fintech has seen a frothy flood of... Read more »

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With $20M, UCSD Spinout Jecure To Press New Attack On NASH

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 09:55

[Updated 2/15/17, 8:10 pm ET. See below.] Liver disease is challenging for doctors because it can develop without symptoms, making diagnosis difficult without removing cells for examination. For these reasons, fatty liver disease is often called a “silent disease,” says Ariel Feldstein, a gastroenterologist at the University of California San Diego.

Feldstein has been studying the liver for nearly 20 years, and his research now forms the basis of a newly launched company called Jecure Therapeutics. Backed by $20 million in Series A funding from Versant Ventures, San Diego-based Jecure aims to develop a new class of drugs to treat... Read more »

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Dear Tom Price: Bundled Payments Help Patients and Reduce Costs

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 08:00

With all the talk of repealing Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), people have been taking a closer look at what the law has done for our healthcare system. It turns out the ACA is about a lot more than the problematic healthcare marketplaces. There’s the extension of parental insurance coverage to age 26 and the requirement of insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. The ACA also cleared a path for the FDA to approve the first generic versions of complex drugs called biologics, a huge issue for the pharmaceutical industry. For health insurance, the ACA established a new office... Read more »

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Senate Confirms Price for HHS, But Stock Deals Still Raise Questions

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 10:22

The Senate confirmed Tom Price as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services early Friday morning by a 52-47 vote that, as expected, fell largely on party lines.

Price is an orthopedic surgeon by training who has been a member of Georgia’s congressional delegation since 2004. He will now oversee a department that includes the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In total, the department has an annual budget that tops $1 trillion.

While in Congress, Price has been an outspoken critic of the... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Travel Ban Block, Gilead Shock, Dean Kamen Talk & More

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:35

The biotech community pushed back against President Donald Trump’s order to block travelers and refugees this week, and not much later, a federal court did, too. Patient advocates have scored big wins with recent approvals of rare disease treatments, but they’re not as happy with insurers’ coverage decisions or with Trump’s promises of massive FDA deregulation. All this, plus heart-stopping patent fights, drug-price intrigue, a regenerative chat with inventor Dean Kamen, and more. Let’s get to the roundup.


—A federal appeals court upheld a freeze of the Trump administration’s temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries... Read more »

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Often Advocates Of Faster FDA, Patient Groups Wary Of Trump Deregulation

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:30

In the biomedical world, perhaps the biggest question looming over President Donald Trump’s upcoming pick for Food and Drug Administration commissioner is how drastically that person will help roll back FDA regulations.

Trump said at last week’s meeting in Washington D.C., with pharmaceutical executives that he wanted to slash FDA rules by 75 to 80 percent—“at a level no one has seen before”—while still promising “tremendous protection for the people.”

Taken at face value, those pledges would seem to benefit one group that has often fought red tape: patients and their advocates who feel regulatory strictures keep them from getting new,... Read more »

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San Francisco Appeals Court Upholds Stay on Trump’s Travel Ban—For Now

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 22:20

The Trump administration’s travel ban will remain on a temporary hold under an order issued today by a federal appeals court in San Francisco, which held that the government had failed to make its case for lifting a stay won through a court challenge by the state of Washington.

That means that for the time being, current tech company employees won’t be barred from re-entering the country, even if they come from one of the seven nations targeted by the Trump order. New hires, international students, and others who qualify for visas should be able to get in.

But the case... Read more »

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Xconomy Is Growing: We Need Great Salespeople in SF, Texas, and NY

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 14:59

Since Xconomy’s founding nearly a decade ago, we have grown from a single bureau in Boston to having editors covering 11 innovation clusters around the United States. And over this time, we have cultivated a reputation for outstanding news coverage and events across high-tech business sectors—from information technology to life sciences and beyond. In the past year alone, we have launched new channels covering robotics and A.I., cybersecurity, and education, joining seven existing areas of special focus.

Now, as we continue to grow our editorial coverage, we are excited to be significantly expanding our sales and business development efforts as well.... Read more »

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Trump’s Immigration Policies Threaten to Thwart Economic Growth

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 14:56

For the entire staff at Global Detroit, the Executive Orders from President Trump on immigration, refugees, the so-called Muslim ban, and the wall have been devastating and deeply distressing. They challenge our sense of American values and history.

Beyond our personal and moral reactions, however, the Executive Orders also may have some impact on the work of Global Detroit to spark regional economic growth, job creation, and prosperity. They certainly send a signal to the global community that America may be wavering from its historic role as the world’s most open economy, an unparalleled place of refuge, and a welcoming culture... Read more »

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Biotech Leaders Sign Letter Condemning Trump’s Travel Ban

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:55

The blowback from U.S. business leaders to President Trump’s travel ban continues—today from a throng of biotech executives. This morning, 165 U.S. biotech leaders have signed a letter voicing “deep concern and opposition” to the order, which bars entry to the U.S. to refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The Jan. 27 order placed a 90-day ban on immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. It also barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and other refugees for 120 days. The order is currently on temporary hold thanks to the ruling of a federal judge in Seattle, though that... Read more »

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Kentucky Biotech CEO’s Message For McConnell: I’ll Be Muslim, Too

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

President Trump’s order to bar refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries is on temporary hold, and a court hearing later today could eventually force a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the latest biotech executives to speak out against the ban is in the backyard of Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the top Republican in the U.S. Senate. Cedric Francois, the founder, president, and CEO of Louisville, KY-based Apellis Pharmaceuticals, penned an open letter to McConnell last week to urge McConnell’s opposition. He also wrote that if the Trump administration expanded its policies to include a registry of Muslims, he... Read more »

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As Iraqi Immigrant, Bio CEO Sees Pros and Cons in U.S. Travel Ban

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 02:01

Noori Barka came to California on an H-1B visa in 1986 to work for Santa Monica-based Specialty Laboratories, a medical diagnostics company best known for its clinical testing services. Barka said he had just completed his doctorate in immunology in Belgium, and moved to America with his wife, Evelyn, and his son, David, who was then barely a month old.

At that time, Iraq had been locked for close to six years in war with Iran. Despite the enormous casualties, Barka said there weren’t many refugees emigrating from Iraq to the U.S. back then.

But that has all changed in recent... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Travel Ban, Pharma in DC, Biogen Splits, PCSK9 Wins

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 11:10

Folks had just clocked out last Friday when the Trump Administration announced a travel ban that threw airports around the country into chaos. That announcement set the tone for this week in life sciences. Many in biopharma blasted Trump’s order and tried to grapple with its implications. At the same time, a handful of the industry’s top CEOs flew to Washington for a meeting with the President, who promised to speed the drug approval process, lower drug prices, and overhaul the FDA. Meanwhile, the future of the Affordable Care Act remains undecided, and Tom Price’s controversial candidacy for the top healthcare... Read more »

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Drug-Hunting Startup From Scripps Attracts Celgene Alum, $50M Backing

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 17:09

A team of decorated academic chemists in San Diego have been working since 2014 on a biotech startup that aims to find new drugs faster. The company now has a lot of cash in the bank and a well-known biopharma scientist to guide it.

Vividion Therapeutics is launching with $50 million pledged from investment firms Arch Venture Partners and Versant Ventures. Former Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) president of research and early development Tom Daniel—who, as Xconomy reported previously, left the company over the summer to begin advising biotechs and venture firms—is executive chairman.

In an interview, Daniel (pictured) said that... Read more »

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Insurer UHC Will Cover Biogen Spine Drug, But With Limits And Proof

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:25

[Updated, 1:57 pm E.T., see below] Another major U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealthCare, has said it would cover the first-ever approved drug for the rare disease spinal muscular atrophy, a closely watched bellwether in the national debate over drug prices. While UHC’s policy is less restrictive than the one disclosed recently by rival insurer Anthem, UHC has nonetheless set limits and will only pay past an initial handful of doses if doctors can prove the drug is working.

UHC, which covers more than 50 million Americans, disclosed that nusinersen (Spinraza), the SMA drug from Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) and Ionis... Read more »

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